A Life of Slavery

-Periyar E.V. Ramasamy

Translated by Karthick Ram Manoharan and Vilasini Ramani

The ancient community of the Dravidians were enslaved by Aryans, a foreign people that settled here, and were degraded by being called sudras and panchamas by the latter and were thus unable to make any progress in their lives. The naïve Dravidians, who were illiterates and who were living as small groups without any communication between them due to lack of transportation, were easily cheated and enslaved by Aryans. 

The Aryans tactfully made the Dravidians accept their religion, which is devised exclusively for the former’s betterment, and through the same they disparaged the Dravidians.

In god, in religion, in education – in all institutions important for life – they forced their culture, through which they claimed themselves to be superior and they enslaved us. They deceived us into accepting that we are inferiors in the name of god and religion. It is therefore crucial for the Dravidian Kazhagam to free people from such deception.

This is why we relentlessly preach to the Dravidians that, “You should destroy the god that you are not allowed to touch; You should reject the religion that has turned you into sudras and panchamas; You should dispose the texts of shastras or puranas that treat you as lesser beings.”

We are not saying that the god who is non-discriminatory and teaches people good virtues, the religion that leads people in the righteous path, the shastras and the puranas that insist people to be just and honest, should be denounced. We only say that the religion and the god and its shastras that humiliate the innocent Dravidians who are made to starve, who are not rewarded for their hard work and are thus exploited, should be criticized. As long as the Dravidians remain oppressed they would never be given opportunities nor benefits. The Justice Party in its inception understood this, and later the Self-Respect Movement was started to remove this shameful situation. 

Only after the formation of the Self-Respect Movement did the Dravidians start to gain respect. They started to think about the caste degradation that has been forced on them. Even though there were many Alwars and Nayanmars in the past, none of them seem to have bothered about caste oppression. They did not care about how Aryan culture has kept us oppressed. Instead, they have glorified it in their songs. In the records of the Aryans, we have proof that some Dravidian Kings were against Aryan culture. There are stories where kings like Iraniyan, Ravanan were demonized and were shown as criminals, and immoral tyrants, and how they were tactfully killed by the Aryan kings. The stories of their slayings are celebrated in epics, religious texts and as religious festivals, so that no would breathe a word of opposition against the Aryans ever. Later, the Buddhists and the Jains tried to fight against Aryans but they were destroyed too.

Many Dravidian Tamil scholars have opposed this. But they were also turned into saints and Siddhars and their arguments were sidelined. Valluvar who wrote the Thirukkural had opposed this to a very great extent. But his works were translated wrongly. Today, we are the ones to take over this struggle. When we say we demand for annihilation of caste supremacy, it doesn’t mean calling for annihilation of Brahmins themselves. 

Brahminism which is an Aryan culture has to be annihilated because it is the reason for caste discrimination. We are only against Brahminism and not the Brahmins.

All of this is suppressed in today’s regime. The outsiders from the North are made into leaders. The reason that the wealth of this country is owned by the outsiders and those who are hand-in-glove with the rulers is because these Northerners have the liberty to exploit our wealth as they wish. Since religious beliefs are protected, it has given way for some to claim themselves as superior, even superior by birth. 

There are claims that untouchability has been abolished. But the truth is that the ‘abolition of untouchability’ is in the same state today as it was under the Justice Party 27 years back. 

The Justice Party made rules for everyone to have the right to use roads before 1923 itself. It was only the Brahmins and the Congressmen who prevented this then. But today, they claim our measures to be theirs. But ‘untouchability’ with respect to religion, the right to conduct rituals, to give food to idols, and loot money given for prayers, is still in the control of the Brahmins alone. In the name of God, they continue to claim rights to loot and enjoy free food without doing any work.

Also, it is claimed that ‘untouchability has been abolished’. But the very basis of the untouchability, which is caste discrimination, is still allowed. The religion which is the reason for caste discrimination is untouched and so are the rights for this religion. All the superstitions like temple-chariot processions, weddings of the gods etc. in which money, knowledge and materials are being wasted, are being validated. There is still support for cheating and fraud in ‘His’ name.

Periyar’s speech at a general meeting in Karur on 01-01-1950. Published on Viduthalai on 04.02.1950.


Source: Periyar E. V. Ramasamy. 2011. Periyar Kalanjiyam 9: Jaathi-Theendaamai, Paagam (3). [Periyar Repository 9: Caste-Untouchability Part (3)]. Second Edition. Chennai: Periyar Suyamariyathai Prachaara Niruvanam, pp. 174-177.

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